Once a month I feature the story of survivors of perinatal illnesses (this covers PND, Anxiety, OCD, PTSD, Psychosis). I found that so many women responded to my own blog posts where I shared details of my journey through PND and wanted to give others the opportunity to share here.
I provided each writer with 10 questions and asked that they choose at least 5 to answer. I hope you will read their story and offer support via a comment. I also hope you will take away helpful information, inspiration and/or a greater understanding of perinatal illnesses.
Today welcome Andrea from Postpartum and Pigtails. I want to highlight her mention of intrusive thoughts. These are what I described in my post linked above as “shared details”. It can be one of the scariest symptoms of PND as most women share the same fear – someone will take my child/children from me. Please know that this is not the case at all – what will happen is you will be offered support and treatment options. Intrusive thoughts are not grounds for removal of a child from a home. *
What form of perinatal illness did you suffer from (PND, PNA – anxiety, OCD, psychosis, PTSD etc) and what were your symptoms?
Postpartum Anxiety, Postpartum OCD & Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
My symptoms began with intrusive thoughts. Scary, horrible, uncontrollable what if thoughts haunted me. At the time I didn’t know what they were; I thought I was going crazy.
I suffered from panic attacks, I became terrified of the knives in the house, I was afraid to give my daughter a bath & I was scared to wake up at night to feed her because of the intrusive thoughts.
I worried about everything- from my daughter’s health to getting in a car accident & not making it home to her. I would wash her toys & mop the floors after anyone came over because I was so afraid that she would get sick.
I also had some of the compulsions of OCD. I was afraid to switch my jewelry in fear that if I took a piece off something “bad” would happen & certain things in my house had to be in the “right” spot. I would also repeatedly check on my daughter to make sure that the blankets weren’t covering her face while she was sleeping.
When did you know or were conscious that things weren’t right? What was the moment that defined things for you?
It was a Sunday & I was 7 weeks postpartum. I wanted to clean the house but we were out of cleaning products. I became so angry. I started yelling at my husband, took off in my car & drove around for hours trying to find what I needed. It was during this drive when the intrusive thoughts first popped into my head. I was horrified & at that moment I knew something was seriously wrong. I sat in my car in a parking lot & just cried. I was so scared of what was happening to me.
What course of treatment did you follow with your doctor? What do you feel was the most beneficial and why?
Unfortunately, I didn’t have a treatment plan in the beginning. I saw my doctor right away but I only told her that I was having anxiety. I didn’t tell her about the intrusive thoughts in fear that my daughter would be taken away from me & that I would be locked up. She recommended a therapist & thought I should start a low dose of Zoloft. I was afraid to go on medication so I never filled that prescription. I did see the therapist but never felt comfortable with her so I stopped going. I dealt with this on my own & didn’t tell anyone about the intrusive thoughts for over two years.
So many people are not sure how to be helpful or supportive once they know someone has PND. What were the best ways others helped you / made you feel supported / spoke to you? If those in your life were not helpful, what do you wish they could have said or done for you?
Even though no one knew about the intrusive thoughts at the time, my mom & my husband knew that something serious was going on. My husband took extra time off from work to be with me & was so supportive throughout this journey. My mom was amazing. She took time off from work to stay with me during the day & to get me out of the house after my husband went back to work. She also stayed over to get up with my daughter at night so I wouldn’t have to. The support I received from my mom & my husband was the best thing anyone could have done in helping me get through that dark time.
What helped you overcome PND / recover – what was in your personal tool kit? (ie support group, hired help, partner reduced work hours / work from home, returned to work, exercise..)
I knew that I didn’t want to live like this forever, so when my daughter was 2.5 I finally reached out for help & began my road to recovery. I found an amazing therapist, I told my doctor what was really going on, I started Zoloft, I found blogs & support groups online & I began writing about my experience. I also try to eat as healthy as possible & exercise. Yoga has been helpful too. All of this together has played a crucial part in my healing from PND.
When did you know you were reaching the light at the end of the tunnel / tipping point to recovery?
The day my therapist told me that I wasn’t crazy & explained that many people experience intrusive thoughts. She put a name to all of this. She told me that I was going to be OK. I walked out of her office that day feeling like a huge weight had just been lifted. She gave me hope.
If you went on to have more children after PND can you share what you did to prepare yourself and your family (preventative measures). What was most helpful?
We are trying to conceive & my doctors are all involved. I am open & honest about how I am feeling & I am working on a Baby After a Postpartum Mood Disorder Plan. This plan includes what my triggers are, ways to keep my anxiety down, healthy decisions I can make for myself, having help after the baby is here & coping strategies. I want to make sure that I am as prepared as I can be.
If you could go back in time what advice would you give yourself before you had children?
Be honest about how you are feeling.
There is no shame in asking for help.
What is 1 (or more) positive thing that came out of your PND experience?
I love this question because three years ago I would have never thought I could give one example of something positive about going through PND. But now? There are so many wonderful things that have come out of this!
I truly believe that I am a better person because of what I went through. I am learning so much about myself! I am learning how to be more mindful & really cherish every moment. I am also much stronger than I ever thought.
When I was still struggling, I started a Moms Group so I could meet others & get out of the house. I now have some great friends because of this. I have found online support groups filled with wonderful women from all around the world; there are so many incredible & supportive people out there! I also met Katherine Stone & Ivy Shih Leung- two very amazing & strong women.
I am (slowly) working on starting a support group for others in my area that experience PND. I volunteer with Postpartum Support International (PSI) as a Co-Coordinator & I volunteer once a week on the PSI warmline. This is so rewarding & I am glad that I can give back!
I also discovered blogging through all of this & now have an outlet for my thoughts & a place to connect with others.
10. What would you want to say to women currently suffering with PND?
Please get help right away, don’t wait like I did. I truly believe waiting so long made it worse.
Know that there are many, many others who go through this & you are not alone.
With help, you will feel better.
Thank you Andrea for sharing your story that needed to be told.
Find your simple,
Click through to read the first interview which was with Jane from Life on Planet baby.
* Disclaimer – For this post and this entire blog -I am not a doctor or specialist, but simply share my PND experiences and those of others. Please always seek medical (or other) advice and treatment for your own health care.
Survivor bio: Andrea is a stay at home mom to my 3 year old daughter. A few years ago she started a local Moms Group & volunteers as a Co-Coordinator & on the warmline for Postpartum Support International. She loves reading, writing, blogging, music, dancing & traveling. She writes about her experience through Postpartum Anxiety/Postpartum OCD, motherhood & life on her blog Postpartum and Pigtails.